FREEDOM FROM THE CURSE OF THE LAW
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (Galatians 3:13)
Well I’m certain that most of us in this room have either gambled, or gone to a casino night, or maybe you’ve seen a movie about gambling. And if so, you have probably heard this the phrase, “I’m all in!” Are you familiar with this phrase? Most people can resonate with that. We know what it means. It means that you’re betting all you have on this one hand or this one number. It means you’re so confident that you’re going to win, although you’re not sure, but you’re confident, so confident in fact that you’re going to push all your red, blue, yellow, and green chips into the center of table and declare, “I’m all in.” So with that in mind I want to tell you that I have heard countless sermons, maybe even a few sermon series’ with that title “All In”. Haven’t you? I mean, if I, right now, flashed on the screen a picture of a guy pushing his chips across the table – maybe put a nice boldfaced type at the top that said , “ALL IN”. And just to hit the nail out of the park I might even stick a Bible verse just below it. There… that looks good.
I am confident, since you are familiar with the terminology and since you ave probably sat under some sermon like this before that just by seeing a design like this that you would know, immediately, where that sermon is going. You already know what is going to be said. And here’s where it will go. It always goes like. You need to push all your chips in. You need to go ‘all in’ for Jesus. You need to be sold out, don’t hold back any chips, don’t keep any for yourself, and give Jesus all your chips. You need to go…ALL IN! And…perhaps that would even be a good sermon, it might motivate you to try harder and give more of yourself, but unfortunately that is, again, another example of the typical check list, to do list, preaching that we have become so accustomed to in this country. It may not be intentional but it always leads to works righteousness. It fuels that desire inside of us to work and to do it ourselves. It’s ‘man’ centered or ‘do’ centered.
Tonight, as we look at Galatians chapter 3, the apostle Paul is going to say something very similar, that is- he will encourage us to go “all in” – but he’s going to do something subtly different. He’s going to spin that typical “all in” sermon on its head. He does this in a very subtle way and I want you to see the subtlety of how this happens. You see, you and I are so accustomed to hearing, “You need to go All In for Jesus,” but Paul is going to say, “You need to go All In on Jesus.” Do you see that subtle difference? It’s very subtle but it makes all the difference in the world. The first one says, “You need to try harder and do better and be good’r, never stop improving, you can do it, Jesus can help.” But the second one says, “You need to bet it all on Jesus. The first is man centered. The second is Christ centered. The first is “do”, the second is “done”. Do you see that? It’s a subtle difference but it’s the difference that makes all the difference when it comes to a clear accurate presentation of the free Grace Gospel of Jesus Christ
That is what we are going to see in these first few verses of Galatians 3. Paul will teach that there is only two ways that you and I can live. There’s only two ways that all creatures – great and small – can live. There is no other choice. Just 2 ways. Either you’ll say, “I have to make it happen and I’m betting it all on myself,” or, “Jesus has already made it happen and I’m betting it all on Jesus.” You can say, “I have to get it right,” or, “Jesus has already got it right for me.” Essentially, in light of our conversation last week on Justification, you must say, “I will justify myself and I will work like a dog in order to justify myself,” or, “I’m going to bet it all on Jesus. I am gambling that he has already justified me.
Now since there’s only two ways to live you have to bet all your chips either on the black square or on the red square. You have to push all the chips on You/works/curse/the black square or Jesus/faith/blessing/the red square. The problem is that we tend to want to put half our chips on Jesus and then half of our chips on ourselves, or maybe 60-40 or 70-30. It doesn’t matter – there can be only one. It is “Jesus + Nothing = Everything”. You can not put a little here then a little there. You can not diversify. You must go All IN! Let’s look at chapter 3.
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. O foolish Galatians!
We will begin with Paul’s concluding statement from last week’s argument. Last week we looked at how the Gospel sets us free from even the law. We didn’t read the last verse of chapter 2 last week, mostly because I felt it would suit our conversation today better, but also, I wanted us to end last week on the love of Christ. It is the love of Christ that compels us to live for him. The law never motivates. It demotivates. But the free grace offer of Jesus is very motivational. For this reason Paul taught us last week that the law is dead. Paul said, “You’re dead to me, Law!” And he ends that argument, putting the last nail in the coffin of the law, by clarifying that if we try to earn God’s approval through our works and efforts that it nullifies the grace of God… and… if that is true, then Christ died for no purpose. If you put any chips on yourself, then you are saying that Jesus death and resurrection was not quite enough. That is what the legalists in Galatia where saying. That Jesus saves, but you must become a Jew and follow all the laws of the Jews.
If you believe that, then Jesus died for nothing. Now listen to what Paul just said. If any righteousness could ever be earned by works of the Law, then why on earth did Jesus die? Paul is saying that there are only 2 ways. Either Jesus died and paid it all and won justification for us, or you did it. If he did, then the very act of trying to earn it cancels, or nullifies, the cross. Do you see how strongly he states that? It is all or nothing. Can I just tell you that, “God helps those who helps themselves” is not a bible verse! It is no where in the bible. Not even close. In fact, George Barna found in a demographics study, that 82% of all Americans believe that, “God helps those who helps themselves” is a bible verse. There nothing even close to that in the bible. It is actually the opposite. The bible actually says thing like… “We all fall very short…, even our good works are like filthy rags…, and while we were still in our sin Christ become sin for us…” I could go on… Just trust me, it is nowhere in there. God does not help those who help themselves God helps those who cannot help themselves.
He moves on, “… Oh, foolish Galatians…” Paul has gotten so irate about this that he is now calling his readers fools. He calls them fools! Wait a minute, doesn’t Jesus teach us never to call another man a fool? (Mat 5) So why does Paul call them fools? Well, there is a good reason. Paul always chooses his words carefully. He calls them fools because they are living, like most of us are living, believing that it is a little bit of Jesus and a little bit of self. They are putting some chips on Jesus and at the same time some chips on self improvement. And so Paul says, “You’re all fools! You’re a fool if you think that you could put any chips on yourself. Because when you do that you nullify or cancel the Gospel and therefore prove that you do not believe in the Gospel. He uses this word fool intentionally and I’ll show you why. If you were to do a word search for “Fool” in the bible you would see most instances of that word in Proverbs, Psalms, and Ecclesiastes. The poetical, proverbial sections of the Old Testament. Let me show you just a few of those verses:
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” Psalm 14:1
You see, Paul uses this harsh term and calls these Galatians “fools” because they are living like atheists. They are living like one who doesn’t believe the words of God. Jesus died on the cross he said it was finished. The bible says that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Jesus said, “I am the way, you must believe on me because I’m the only way to God.” So, if you try to create another way to God. If you say something like, “Well, I tried my best. I did a pretty good job. I never killed anybody!” Then you don’t believe what Jesus said and you’re living like atheist. You don’t have to actually be an atheist to live like an atheist. You can be a functional atheist or a practical atheist there are many Christians today who believe in God while at the same time note placing their believe in God. They believe that God exists and thy believe the Bible is true but they think that the Bible says, “God helps those who helps themselves” so they don’t know what the Bible says that they’re not betting all the chips on Jesus. Paul is teaching that it is either works or faith not both and if you try to do both then you are a functional atheist. Listen to this one in Proverbs:
He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But he who walks wisely will be delivered. Proverbs 28:26
Moving on, we are still on verse 1. “Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.” You fools, who has bewitched you! Paul is still using very strong language. Paul is saying, “You must be under some spell. What witch has come down and hypnotized you? Because there is no way you could have starting believing that you could do something to save yourselves. There is no way that you could start behaving or living like an atheist unless someone put you into some hypnotic spell. If Christ was crucified for you, if you saw Jesus publicly hanging on the cross, bleeding, dying for your sins. If you had that image burned into your mind. Then how could you ever get so sidetracked to start believing and behaving like an atheist?”
This is really good stuff. Paul is whooping up on them. “Who has been bewitched you!? You’re a fool! Who has hypnotized you so to make you act this way!” Some one might say, “My pastor.” I mention at the beginning of this series that it has been noted that the climate in American Evangelicalism today is no different than the climate that Paul is dealing with in Galatia and it’s no different than the culture that Luther was battling against in the early Reformation. We live in the same culture. Evangelicalism is no different. There are many in our Christian context that is bewitching us to believe that we can fix ourselves, that we can do it – and Paul is saying, very clearly to us, to you and me, that as soon as you believe that – you become a functional atheist. The very very unfortunate thing is that this kind of bewitching and teaching is every where today. Sometimes it subtle, sometimes not so subtle. Paul is fighting against this hypnotic atheism and declaring that we are saved by Christ Alone! I believe that it is high time that we do the same. It is time to put an end to all this self-help, law driven, check list christianity and push all of our chips on Jesus.
“When I hear a sermon that is essentially law-driven, that is, asking the law to do what only the grace of Jesus Christ can accomplish, I am immediately concerned about the preacher. I immediately wonder about his view of himself, because if he had any self-consciousness about his own weakness and sin, he would find little hope and comfort for himself and his hearers in that kind of sermon.” Paul Tripp
I think good preachers should be like bad kids. They ought to be naughty enough to tiptoe up on dozing congregations, steal their bottles of religion pills…and flush them all down the drain. The church, by and large, has drugged itself into thinking that proper human behavior is the key to its relationship with God. What preachers need to do is force it to go cold turkey with nothing but the word of the cross-and then be brave enough to stick around while [the congregation] goes through the inevitable withdrawal symptoms. Robert Capon
DISCUSSION: How you are living like a functional atheist and what must you do to stop?
A good question
Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?
Paul, the master teacher continues teaching by asking a rhetorical question. “Let me ask you only this. Here’s a question that should bring it home for you. I just want to ask you one question. Just one question. Okay? Here it is: How did you get saved? Tell me your testimony. Did you get saved while you where working really hard and trying really hard to obey the law? Or, did you get saved like – all of a sudden? Did you just hear the gospel and then received the Holy Spirit. Which one was it?”
And clearly the answer to that question is the latter. All of us, every single one of us, got saved by hearing the gospel and then receiving the Holy Spirit. None of us earned salvation, it was just given to us as the free gift of God. He makes the same point in regard to miracles.
Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith…? (Galatians 3:5)
Again, the clear answer is the latter. Miracles and the power of the Holy Spirit – all of that comes through faith, not works. Do you see that? It is though faith alone, not works. Incidentally, you will here a kind of teaching out there that, with no subtlety at all, teaches that if you give more money or follow certain steps, then – God will heal you or make you rich. As you can see, that is not what Paul says here. We get healing, miracles etc… though faith alone.
So we are saved by faith, we receive the HS through faith, we see miracles through faith. It is all through so… Paul asks a second question. I know – he said he was only going to ask one but he goes on asks another.
Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
This is such an awesome verse. You are a fool, a functional atheist, when you think that you can add anything to the gospel. It is through faith alone. And I don’t know if you noticed this or not but Paul is now saying that even our sanctification is through faith. Last week we talked about justification and sanctification. Justification means “to be made right.” When we believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection was a substitute for our sins then we are justified – or made right before God. Then, at that point we receive the Holy Spirit and begin a process called sanctification. Sanctus means holy. Sanctification means “being made holy”. The Holy Spirit, living in us, helps us to start making better choices and slowly changes us – making us more holy – or more like Jesus.
You see, since we are such do it yourselves we easily start to think, “Oh, then that is my part, that is what I do. I try harder and do better, not to be saved, but to be… well… better.” But Paul just took that from us too. He says,
Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
Don’t be a fool. If you were saved by faith you will be perfected or sanctified by faith as well. Don’t be tempted to put some of your chips on you. You must keep them all on Jesus. Timothy Keller says:
“We are not only saved by the gospel, but we also now grow by the gospel. Paul is saying that we don’t begin by faith and then proceed and grow through our works. We are not only justified by faith in Christ, we are also sanctified by faith in Christ. We never leave the gospel behind.” Timothy Keller
“When we have become righteous, then first are we able and willing to do good. The tree makes the apple; the apple does not make the tree.” Martin Luther
“The man who has faith is the man who is no longer looking at himself, and no longer looking to himself. He no longer looks at anything he once was. He does not look at what he is now. He does not [even] look at what he hopes to be as the result of his own efforts. He looks entirely to the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work, and he rests on that alone. He has ceased to say, ‘Ah yes, I have committed terrible sins but I have done this and that…’ He stops saying that. If he goes on saying that, he has not got faith… Faith speaks in an entirely different manner and makes a man say, ‘Yes, I have sinned grievously, I have lived a life of sin… yet I know that I am a child of God because I am not resting on any righteousness of my own; my righteousness is in Jesus Christ, and God has put that to my account.’” Lloyd-Jones
ABRAHAM THE MAN OF FAITH
… Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? (Galatians 3:6)
Paul brings up Abraham. This is a stroke of genius really. He is such a great debater. Right in the middle of this argument he says, “What about Abraham?” Remember – he is still fighting the law lovers, those Jewish believers who are teaching and spoiling Christian freedom by enforcing the Jewish laws and customs on new Christians. So he says, “You wanna talk about being a Jew – O.K., fine – lets talk about Abraham. Lets go all the way back to the fist Jew. How did Abraham get saved? How do he find favor with God? Was it though the law or through faith?
This is actually a trick question. Paul will elaborate on that next week. But, in short, it is a trick because there was no law when God called Abraham. The law came through Moses. Abraham was way before Moses. The story of Abraham begins in Genesis 12. It goes Adam and eve, then Noah, the the tower of Babel where god spreads people all over the globe, creating different nations. Then Abraham. And God, it seems randomly, came to Abraham and said he wanted to bless Abraham and to bless all the nations through Abraham. There was no 10 commandment yet.
So Paul is still railing against the Law. The law doesn’t save, it doesn’t sanctify. In fact, the very first jew, Abraham didn’t have the law and he too was saved by grace through faith alone! “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.” It was belief not works. Ironically, the
Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:7-9)
The true sons of Abraham, Paul says is those with faith, not works. And he concludes… “So then, those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham,” and he calls him, “the man of faith.” Moving on…
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”
Here is why you cant rely on works, because if you want to rely on works then you have to go “all in” on the works side. If you want to save yourself by being a good person then you have to be a perfect person. If you can’t keep every law then you are cursed. “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all the things written in the Book of the Law.” So to the guy who says he is better than most people, he doesn’t cheat on his wife or kill kittens, we say, yea but do you lie? Well… sometimes… but they’re just little… no let me stop you there, there are no little… you are a liar.” So therefore you do not keep all the commands and therefore are cursed.
This is functional atheism and it is rampant today. When I meet people, and if our conversation gravitates to Christianity, then I typically try to try to get them to tell me how they think one is saved. It is a great question that immediately reveals what people really believe. It reveals whether they are Christians, atheists, or functional atheists. You can’t just asked someone if they’re Christian or if they go to church. You have to get at the heart of it. Do they understand the Gospel? I can not tell you how many times I get the wrong answer. Recently, I went into a the Chesterfield mall and asked about 12 people that question and every single one of them. all of them, answered exactly the same way. They say, well I’m pretty good. I try to be at least. I live a simple life with a simple motto. I just try to treat people like I want to be treated. You know, do to other what you want them to do to you. I try to live by that for the most part and so I think, you know… I’m pretty good guy. In fact, I just had a conversation with a guy this week with the same result. I cant tell you how amazing it is to hear 12 people in a row say the exact same thing. Where in the world did they hear that? For most of them, it was church!
Unfortunately, wether they know it or not, they are functional atheists. They may believe in God, they may even believe in Jesus, but they are not placing their faith on Jesus. They are not pushing all the chips on Jesus. They think that they have earned some right to be saved, and Paul says, “If you think like that then you are living under a curse.” The law is a curse. It constantly reveals how evil and selfish and sinful and impure you really are. And unless you can obey every dot of every I of every law, then you are under that curse because the law is always gonna get you.
JESUS CURSED FOR US
That is the bad news. Don’t put your faith in bad news. Put you faith in the Good-news. You don’t have to put any chips on the curse/you/works because Jesus invites you to put all your chips on the blessing/jesus/faith.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:10-14,
The Good-news is that Jesus took that curse for us. “He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf.” So please – don’t try to put any chips on yourself. You must go “all in” on Jesus. In fact, the cross of Jesus if we adequately see it, is so humiliating – so haunting that it will drive you far away from any works of your own. Don’t get hypnotized into thinking you can do anything worth adding to the cross.
“Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to say to us, ‘I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’ Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.” John Stott